Look also at ships; although they are large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. – James 3:4
74 years ago today, on May 27, 1941, the German battleship Bismarck succumbed to various torpedoes and bombs from the British Royal Navy and slipped beneath the waters resting where she still does, under water 15,000 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.
At the time of its’ launching, the Bismarck was the pride of the German navy and a source of fear for Great Britain. England knew, if Bismarck was able to make it out of the Denmark Strait and into the vast Atlantic Ocean, she would have the capacity to do extreme damage to merchant convoy’s from the United States to Great Britain. The Bismarck’s eight 15 inch guns were, at the time, the largest guns on any ship at sea. In fact just a few days earlier, from a distance of over 18,000 yards, the Bismarck sunk the largest ship of the Royal Navy, the HMS Hood with one of those 15 inch guns hitting the target. The Hood sank in less than 3 minutes.
Clearly, the Bismarck was an awesome and powerful ship. Nazi Germany wished to unleash this vessel of destruction upon England.
After the sinking of the HMS Hood, there were some brief encounters with other ships and planes with the Bismarck receiving much less damage than she dished out, with one notable exception. A small decades old bi-wing torpedo plane was able to score a hit in the Bismarck’s one vulnerable area. The great ship’s port-side rudder was damaged so significantly that it was stuck in such a way the ship was locked in a perpetual 12 degree port side turn. While the hit wouldn’t directly sink it, the Bismarck was unable to steer, therefore it was unable to get to port for repairs. It was locked into a slow turn and doomed to anything and everything England could throw at it.
The next day, May 27, Great Britain mustered anything that could float, shoot and fly to
converge on the area where the Bismarck was circling. Between shells and torpedoes from various English warships, the Bismarck finally slipped below the waves at 10:40am.
What strikes me about the sinking of the Bismarck is how this large and powerful ship was ultimately defeated because of a jammed rudder. While the ship could fire and propel itself, it was uncontrollable and therefore doomed to destruction.
James makes the comparison that even as “large” ships are controlled by a small rudder, so we are to control our tongue. It can be a serious weak area for us. We must learn to control our tongue. It is the subject of most of chapter 3 that our tongue must be something we learn to control. Because if we don’t control our tongue, it will control us – meaning we will often face unnecessary difficulties because of what we’ve said.
But it’s more than just what we say.
Jesus made the statement that “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). So, it isn’t as much as what we say, it’s really what we reveal about ourselves. Our mouth only speaks what’s in our heart.
We need God to cleanse our heart. Beyond just a point of salvation, we need His cleansing daily. I need to keep myself in prayer, fellowship and maybe most importantly, in His Word. Through His Word, I see those areas where His is working on me, I see how my heart struggles with sin and my bent isn’t always toward Him as I’d like. And I really notice, that my mouth can often reveal the shallowness of my heart.
Just like that large seemingly invincible German battleship was brought to destruction by a small rudder, we too can be damaged and ship-wreck our testimony by not controlling our tongue. I believe what James seems to be indicating, you will never reach your potential of service to God, if you don’t gain a significant degree of victory over your tongue. As he says later in verse 10 of chapter 3, “Out of the same mouth comes blessing and curing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
Something more to think about as you reflect on what happened, 74 years ago today in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Blessings my friend